Photo/Illutration Nagaimo yam and eryngii mushroom sauteed with pork (Photo by Masahiro Goda)

Editor’s note: The theme of Gohan Lab is to help people make simple, tasty “gohan” (meals).

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Miso, one of the five basic seasonings of Japan denoted by the syllabary “sa shi su se so,” is closely associated with Japanese cuisine.

But it is now used by chefs of not only Japanese cooking but also Chinese and Italian cuisines. The wide use of miso will be explored in a four-part series starting this week.

The flavor of miso is a complex fusion of saltiness, sweetness, umami, sourness and bitterness characterized by the rich aroma and savor.

Katsuhiko Yoshida, a Chinese cuisine chef who oversaw the cooking aspect of the recipe, says he uses miso when he wants to add body to stir-fried and simmered dishes.

“Rich in umami and balanced in taste, it is a star seasoning,” he says.

This week’s dish is a miso-flavored stir-fry using nagaimo yam, eryngii mushroom and pork. The flavor turns out somewhat sweet after sugar and soy sauce is added along with the miso.

Although the light-colored relatively salty type such as Shinshu miso was used in the recipe, you may use the miso in your fridge. The amount of soy sauce or sugar may be changed depending on how your miso tastes.

Although nagaimo is less likely to absorb the flavor, the seasonings will nicely coat it.


Miso is classified according to the flavor, color and types of “koji,” fermenting vessel, such as rice, barley and soybeans.

According to data compiled by the Japan Federation of Miso Manufacturers Cooperatives formed by miso makers nationwide, rice miso makes up about 80 percent of all miso that are shipped.

About 10 percent are mixed miso containing more than two types of miso, be they rice or barley miso, or made from a mixture of more than one koji. The remaining 10 percent are soybean miso and barley miso.

About half of all rice miso are the light-colored yellowish salty type typified by Shinshu miso. The federation’s data shows that although the shipping volume of miso has fallen 20 percent from 20 years ago, exports are rising probably due to the growing interest in Japanese cooking.


(Supervised by Katsuhiko Yoshida in the cooking aspect and Midori Kasai in the cookery science aspect)

* Ingredients (Serves three)

150 grams nagaimo yam, 100 grams eryngii mushroom, 150 grams pork belly (buta-bara-niku) slices, prior seasoning of pork (1 tsp each of sake and soy sauce, bit of black pepper and katakuriko starch), 2 Tbsp oil, mixed seasoning (1 Tbsp each of miso, sugar and sake, 1 tsp soy sauce, 100 ml water), 1 Tbsp sesame oil

About 385 kcal and 1.4 grams salt per portion

PHOTO A: Nagaimo will be used unpeeled. This way, it is less likely to crumble when sauteed and does not slip when cutting. (Photo by Masahiro Goda)

1. Scrub nagaimo with pot scourer and remove root. Cut in half lengthwise with skin and slice into 1 cm-thick half circles (PHOTO A). Cut length of eryngii in half and slice into 7 to 8 mm-thick pieces.

2. Cut pork slices into pieces 2 cm wide, place in bowl and add prior seasonings of soy sauce, sake and black pepper. Rub them in lightly. Then add katakuriko starch and mix.

PHOTO B: Mix thoroughly so no miso clumps remain. Adding water at the end in small amounts prevents this. (Photo by Masahiro Goda)

3. Thoroughly mix miso with other seasonings and water in a bowl. (PHOTO B).

PHOTO C: A key is to sautee swiftly on high heat. The nagaimo will remain crunchy, and you get to enjoy the variation in texture. (Photo by Masahiro Goda)

4. Add oil to frying pan and heat. Sautee pork on higher medium heat while separating pieces. When color has changed, add nagaimo and eryngii and cook. Add mixed seasoning. Turn to high heat and maintain boiled state for a little less than 1 minute while mixing (PHOTO C). Turn off heat and pour sesame oil in circular motion.

Tips on making nagaimo yam and eryngii mushroom sauteed with pork (Video by Masahiro Goda)

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Katsuhiko Yoshida is the owner chef of Jeeten, a restaurant in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Uehara offering Chinese home cooking.

Midori Kasai is a professor emerita at Ochanomizu University and former chairwoman of the Japan Society of Cookery Science.


Green pepper sauteed with miso (Serves two)

Green pepper sauteed with miso (Photo by Masahiro Goda)

Use 1 bag (150 grams) of green pepper (“piman” type). Cut in half lengthwise, leave the seeds, remove just the calyx. Seeds are to remain since the seasonings cling well to them. Place the green pepper flat horizontally and cut into 2 cm-wide pieces. Cut 30 grams ginger into fine strips. Mix 1 Tbsp each of sugar, sake, miso and 50 ml water. Pour 1 Tbsp oil in frying pan, cook green pepper over high heat. When pieces are coated with oil, add ginger and cook further. Add mixed seasonings and sautee until green pepper softens somewhat. As a final touch, pour 1 tsp sesame oil in circular motion.


The Asahi Shimbun

Miso is a seasoning made by mixing steamed soybeans with koji and salt, then fermenting and aging them. Koji is a starter made by attaching the koji fungus to rice, barley or soybeans. Each becomes rice, barley and soybean miso with different flavors and aroma depending on the balance of the salt and koji. The miso is termed “karakuchi” (salty taste) if low in koji and high in salt content and “amakuchi” (sweet taste) if high in koji and low in salt content.

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From The Asahi Shimbun’s Gohan Lab column